An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy or sexual abstinence, which are behaviours, while asexuality is generally considered to be a sexual orientation. Some asexuals do participate in sex, for a variety of reasons.
Most people on AVEN have been asexual for their entire lives. Just as people will rarely and unexpectedly go from being straight to gay, asexual people will rarely and unexpectedly become sexual or vice versa. Another small minority will think of themselves as asexual for a brief period of time while exploring and questioning their own sexuality.
There is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity; at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so.
Although asexuality shares a common set of values, it is expressed differently by each individual. Within the AVEN forum, asexual people use language to distinguish their varying opinions concerning sexual expression and romantic relationships. Here is a list of terms that asexual people use to define themselves:
Full article: relationships
Asexual people have the same emotional needs as anyone else, and like in the sexual community we vary widely in how we fulfill those needs. Some asexual people are happier on their own, others are happiest with a group of close friends. Other asexual people have a desire to form more intimate romantic relationships, and will date and seek long-term partnerships. Asexual people are just as likely to date sexual people as we are to date each other.
Sexual or nonsexual, all relationships are made up of the same basic things. Communication, closeness, fun, humor, excitement and trust all happen just as much in sexual relationships as in nonsexual ones. Unlike sexual people, asexual people are given few expectations about the way that our intimate relationships will work. Figuring out how to flirt, to be intimate, or to be monogamous in a nonsexual relationships can be challenging, but free of sexual expectations we can form relationships in ways that are grounded in our individual needs and desires.
Full article: attraction
Many asexual people experience attraction, but we feel no need to act out that attraction sexually. Instead we feel a desire to get to know someone, to get close to them in whatever way works best for us. Some asexuals describe our attraction as "romantic", "platonic", or "aesthetic" attraction, to differentiate them from sexual attraction. Asexual people who experience attraction will often be attracted to a particular gender, and may identify as gay, bi, pan, or straight, or as homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic or heteroromantic.
For some sexual arousal is a fairly regular occurrence, though it is not associated with a desire to find a sexual partner or partners. Some asexuals will occasionally masturbate, but feel no desire for partnered sexuality. Other asexual people experience little or no arousal. Asexual people generally do not see a lack of sexual arousal as a problem to be corrected, and focus their energy on enjoying other types of arousal and pleasure.
Note: People do not need sexual arousal to be healthy, but in a minority of cases a lack of arousal can be the symptom of a more serious medical condition. If you do not experience sexual arousal or if you suddenly lose interest in sex you should probably see a doctor just to be safe.
Full article: research relating to asexuality
Although researchers in human sexuality have known about asexuality since at least the late 1940s, little research has been done. Most of this has been recent and there is increasing interest in the subject.
Proposed Models and Definitions
Being such a new and unexplored concept, the definition and categorization of asexuality has been the subject of much debate, not least among asexuals themselves. It is often conceived of as one of four or more orientations (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual/pansexual, asexual), but is also spoken of as one of two (sexual and asexual) with gender preference being measured along a different axis.
In addition, a number of other definitions and more complex models have been proposed:
Asexuality and Religion
Views on Asexuality in the History of Religious Philosophy
In philosophy, there is a long tradition of interpreting the desire for sex as a moral vice that should be eradicated. Gautama Buddha had already posed this question. He proclaimed: “So long as the least desire of a man for women has not been eradicated, he is fettered in mind, like a sucking calf to its mother” (The Dhammapada #284). Then Plato in his Symposium propounds a myth that in primal times people were androgynous. The androgyne human being falls apart, separates from himself the natural female element, and falls slave to the power of feminine nature. Sex becomes the source, in the world, of tormenting, insatiable thirst for union. All man’s sexual life is only a tormenting and intense seeking for his lost androgynism, for the union of man and woman in one integral being. The feminine element became inwardly alien to man and hence outwardly it became compulsory. Man attempts to restore his androgynous image through sexual attraction towards the lost feminine nature.
Following in the footsteps of Plato, many philosophers (Jakob Böhme, Vladimir Solovyov, and others) elaborated the concept of androgyny. For example, Franz Xaver von Baader wrote:
The Androgyne is the harmonious fusion of the sexes, resulting in a certain asexuality, a synthesis which creates an entirely new being, and which does not merely juxtapose the two sexes 'in an enflamed opposition' as the hermaphrodite does.
Baader says that Man was originally an androgynous being. In truth neither man nor woman is the image and likeness of God but only the androgyne. Both sexes are equally fallen from the original divinity of the androgyne. Androgynism is man's likeness to God, his supernatural upsurge. Hence it follows that sexes must cease and vanish. From these positions Baader interpreted the sacrament of marriage as a symbolic restitution of angelic bisexuality: “The secret and the sacrament of true love in the indissoluble bond of the two lovers, consists in each helping the other, each in himself, towards the restoration of the androgyne, the pure and whole humanity.” According to Baader, Christ's sacrifice will make possible a restoration of the primal androgyny.
Baader’s views were developed by Berdyaev who believed that the differentiation into male and female was a result of the cosmic fall of Adam. The female element fell away in the fall of man and became the object of an evil and false tendency, the source of enslavement. The root of man’s fall was connected with sex, and man’s sinful life, fettered in sexual drive, was preceded by the fall of the androgyne, the separation into male and female, the disfigurement of the image and likeness of God. From that angle Berdyaev examines the concept of sexual perversions in medicine.
The naturalism of sex, its “natural” norms, are now shaken… Never before have there been such widespread deviations from the “natural”, birthgiving sex… The “natural” boundaries between female and male are blurred and confused.
The concept of sexual perversions is being subject to refinement. And yet “it has never been finally recognized that the religion of Christ obliges us to recognize the 'natural' sex life as abnormal, the 'natural' sexual act as perversion.” Stressing in every way possible the Christian condemnation of sexual drive, Berdyaev criticises those workers who limit sexual disorders to some patterns of sexual behaviour (e.g., homosexuality, fetishism, etc.) and do not put the question whether the sexual act itself is anomaly. According to Berdyaev, mankind is to overcome sexual drive.
Similar views on the nature of the sexes and the necessity for androgynous reintegration can also be found in William Blake’s poetry.
History of the Definition
- Nicole Prause & Cynthia A. Graham Asexuality: Classiﬁcation and Characterization // Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:341–356. DOI 10.1007/s10508-006-9142-3
- Nikolai Berdyaev. The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2008, p. 184.
- Nikolai Berdyaev. The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2008, p. 203.
- Nikolai Berdyaev. The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2008, p. 185.
- Nikolai Berdyaev. The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2008, p. 199.
- Бердяев Н. Смысл творчества (The Meaning of the Creative Act) // Бердяев Н. Философия творчества, культуры и искусства. В 2-х тт. М.: Искусство, т. 1, 1994, стр. 196. (The sentence adduced is missing from the English translation used.)
- Nikolai Berdyaev, “The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Semantron Press, 2008, p. 199.
- Nikolai Berdyaev. The Metaphysics of Sex and Love // Бердяев Н. Новое религиозное сознание и общественность (The New Religious Consciousness and Society). Москва: Канон+, 1999, с. 242.
- Hoeveler, Diane Long (1979). "Blake's Erotic Apocalypse: The Androgynous Ideal in "Jerusalem"." Essays in Literature (Western Illinois University) 6 (1): 29–41.